THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015) AND THE FALL OF THE KRAYS (2016). A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015) AND THE FALL OF THE KRAYS (2016). DIRECTED BY ZACKARY ADLER.
STARRING SIMON COTTON, KEVIN LESLIE, PHIL DUNSTER, DANNY MIDWINTER AND ALEXA MORDEN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. These two low-budget films, based on the true life stories of notorious British gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, claim to leave out the glamorisation of the twins’ stories and to leave us with the impression that its two subjects are nothing more than two truly nasty pieces of work. Well, job done, because both films are heavy going and the twins have no redeeming features in them whatsoever.

It’s not entirely realistic, however, because no-one is truly all bad, or even all good, for that matter. Even Hitler had his redeeming features. He loved dogs, especially his own bow-wow Blondi. He liked children, and the offspring of that charming couple, the Goebbels,’ doted on him and called him Uncle Adolf.

He was a vegetarian too, and even though I know that that doesn’t automatically make a person ‘good,’ if he’d been alive today he probably would have been to the forefront of the ‘save the earth by stopping eating meat’ campaign. Isn’t that a really weird thought…?

But the Kray twins in these two films just come across as thugs, brutish, humourless and incapable of feeling love or kindness, never mind mercy, towards any of their fellow men, or women.

Their mother Violet is not seen in the film except in brief, dialogue-less flashback, so we are not able to witness the twins’ adoration for her that the 1990 film, THE KRAYS, with Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp in the starring roles, deals with so well.

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS just shows us the twins beating people up for nearly two hours until eventually they pretty much run the criminal underworld in ‘50s and ‘60s London. There doesn’t seem to have been any crime in which they didn’t participate; protection rackets, arson, armed robbery, and, finally, murder. They leave behind them a trail of bloody and broken bodies, all casualties of their ferocious, overwhelming need for more and more power.

Ronnie, like in the superb 1990 film, is portrayed as the more violent and angry of the twins, the one that always goes too far and has to be pulled away by Reggie, who’s screaming things like, come away, Ron, leave him, he’s dead already! They allowed people to get into huge debt to them, and then mutilated or crippled them in retaliation.

Ronnie’s mental illness, his schizophrenia, is dealt with here. He did in fact finish his life in Broadmoor, the high security mental hospital, and would have been on medication, one presumes, till the end of his days. While he was at large, however, no-one, not even his beloved twin, could keep him in check.

It was his excesses, and his genuine feeling that he and his brother were ‘untouchable,’ that led to his carelessness and to his making the mistake of shooting people in front of witnesses.

Usually, witnesses to their crimes could be leaned on and ‘persuaded’ neither to testify against the Krays in court nor to single them out in identity parades, but every dog has his day and all good things, as they say, come to an end.

It was the tireless work of London copper Leonard Ernest ‘Nipper’ Read that eventually got the terrible twosome banged up for life, a long-time ambition of Read’s. It was the murders of George Cornell of the excessively violent Richardson gang, convicted gangster Frank Mitchell, whom the Krays sprung from Dartmoor Prison as a sort of mad, ill-advised publicity stunt, and finally of Jack ‘the Hat’ McVitie, that eventually ‘done for’ the brothers. Nipper has quite a big part in the second film.

Reggie marries his quiet, girl-next-door type girlfriend Frances Shea in the second film, but he’s so foul to her and her parents are so against the match that it all ends in tears, and more besides, for poor Frances.

She just didn’t seem to know the complexity of what she was getting in to. Ronnie was terminally jealous of his brother’s marriage and wife. Whatcha need anyone else for, Reg, when we got each uvver, was his answer to everything.

The only likeable people in the two films seem to be Dickie Baker, a member of the twins’ so-called Firm, and Lisa, the beautiful but slightly tragic escort/hooker. They look like they have a chance of happiness together at one stage, but they decide not to take it, for reasons best known to themselves. Sad. I love when she dryly calls him the Ghost of Christmas Past…! Cheeky but apt. Anita Dobson, by the way, of EastEnders fame, is back behind a bar here as the poor, put-upon bleached blonde pub landlady, Madge.

Well, there you go, anyway. The 1990 film, THE KRAYS, has real heart and we quite get to like the twins and empathise with them and their dear old mum, even though we know that the lads have done some really bad things.

Part of our empathy stems from the fact that the twins are played by the dreamy Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp from ‘80s British New Wave band Spandau Ballet, but it’s also a bloody good film as well. Here, the Krays’ close relationship with their mother, brilliantly played by Billie Whitelaw, has something almost of the mystical about it. Mother and sons are nearly supernaturally close, connected tightly forever through hearts and minds.

The women here are all such troopers too, such strong characters. They’ve survived Hitler and World War Two, they can make a few shillings feed everyone in the family for a week and they know what it’s like to be dodging blows from an unemployed and depressed alcoholic of a husband at closing time on Friday and Saturday nights. Such a great film. I thoroughly recommend it to your attention.

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS and THE FALL OF THE KRAYS, unfortunately, don’t come close to the 1990 film for heart, soul and characters we can empathise with. It makes the two brothers look evil, mentally deranged and just thoroughly unpleasant characters. There’s a good ‘Sixties soundtrack and you might find your nostalgia strings being plucked at the sight of ‘Sixties London, but there’s not a lot else to commend this gore-fest. Sorry…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

SOPHIE: A MURDER IN WEST CORK. (2021) A NETFLIX SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SOPHIE: A MURDER IN WEST CORK. (2021) A NETFLIX TRUE CRIME DOCUMENTARY SERIES DIRECTED BY JOHN DOWER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Once upon a time at Christmas, a beautiful young French woman travelled from France to West Cork in Ireland to stay in her isolated holiday home by the sea. Left behind in France, her husband and young son eagerly awaited her return.

She pottered round the small village of Schull, getting in a few groceries and probably passing the time of day and exchanging season’s greetings with the locals she met. Most of them knew her by sight, if not to speak to. She was a popular visitor to the town. The lights could be seen on in her house at night, indicating that the desolate cottage was occupied for the festive season.

Then, one fateful morning just before Christmas, the beautiful French woman was found beaten to death by the gateway to her house, clad in only her nightdress and a pair of boots. That woman was Sophie Toscan du Plantier, and this Netflix documentary attempts to tell her story…

Sophie was thirty-nine years old when she was brutally murdered outside her holiday home in Schull, prounounced ‘Skull.’ It was a quiet seaside town peopled with lots of artistic ‘blow-ins’ as well as the native inhabitants.

The ‘blow-ins’ were people who came to this isolated part of the world to paint and draw and write and sculpt and craft things and design things, because it’s a dream location for anyone who wishes to create anything.

Sophie herself was a writer, a film-and-television producer in her native France and a lover of Irish poetry. I’m guessing William Butler Yeats & Co. She was married to a famous French film producer called Daniel Toscan du Plantier, and their life together sounds like a hectic showbizzy round of red carpets and movie premieres and glittering parties attended by celebrities like themselves.

She was Daniel’s third wife, and a good sixteen years younger than him. She had a son from her first marriage, Pierre Louis, who was about fifteen at the time of his mother’s murder. In the photos of Sophie and her son, with their identical freckly faces and giant grins, Sophie looks like the happiest woman in the world.

So, who called to Sophie’s windswept cottage long after dark on the cold, frosty night of the 23rd December, 1996, somehow inveigled her out of the house wearing only her nightie, chased her across the fields, maybe, to the gateway to her property and there bashed her brains out with a concrete block and then left her there to die…?

Two upturned wine glasses were found on the draining board of her sink, leading the police to think that maybe she’d offered hospitality to her killer before he turned nasty and frightened her enough to flee from him. Sophie, who’s been described by friends and family as having a side to her that was attracted to all things gothic and mysterious, had had unsettling premonitions of doom shortly before her murder…

This Netflix documentary is possibly unique in the history of documentaries in that it features, alive and well and actually walking and talking, the man accused of Sophie’s murder but never charged with it, Ian Bailey. He’s a former journalist from Manchester and a massive hulking brute of a man who moved to Ireland in 1991 after the failure of his marriage.

He has lived in Schull since then, and, from 1992 to earlier on this year, he lived with his partner of thirty years, Jules Thomas, an artist with three daughters. Ian Bailey, according to nearly everyone who takes part in the documentary, especially the locals of Schull, is not a man you would want to see within a mile of your daughter, sister, mother or female friend…

The account of the injuries he inflicted on Jules Thomas while drunk is so sickening I won’t recount it here. That just means, of course, that he’s a man who’s committed violence towards a woman, and it doesn’t necessarily mean he murdered Sophie. So, what makes so many people think it was him?

On the night of the murder, he claimed to have been in bed with Jules all night. Then he admitted having got up, after all, and gone down to his writing studio a little way down the road and stayed up all night working. A witness who later strangely retracted her statement said she’d seen him on the bridge near Sophie’s house at 3am on the night of the murder, wearing his trademark long black coat and acting oddly.

As a local journalist ‘on the spot,’ so to speak, he covered the story himself for different newspapers, often suggesting that the clue to Sophie’s death lay in France and not Schull. There were things he knew about before other people knew about them that suggested he had some ‘insider knowledge’ of the murder.

A guest at the Thomas house around this time claimed to have seen Bailey’s long coat soaking in a bucket of cold water in the shower of the house, not the usual way of cleaning such a garment. You normally only soak a garment like that if it has blood on it.

On St. Stephen’s Day- the day after Christmas Day- Bailey lit a bonfire in his back garden. Forensic experts later found the remains of a coat and wellington boots amongst the ashes, but nothing that constituted solid evidence, apparently.

Strangest of all, Bailey confessed to more than one inhabitant of Schull that ‘he’d done it; he’d gone too far and bashed her head in with a rock.’ He denied knowing Sophie, but locals say otherwise.

Bailey, an obvious narcissist and known attention-seeker who apparently, when he moved to Schull, would shush an entire pub without warning so he could dramatically recite one of his poems, was the man whose name was on everyone’s lips. (In the film, he quotes his own poetry whenever a chance crops up.) To hear him talk, he seems to relish the publicity and being in the limelight, even if it’s mostly notoriety he’s gaining.

He was arrested more than once, but released each time for lack of evidence. Files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the fellow who decides if there is enough evidence to go ahead and charge someone and commit them for trial, but they came back with the directive that the evidence against Ian Bailey was all circumstantial and not hard fact.

So, the man who nowadays effects an eccentric style of dress- in the film, he’s writing a poem on a public bench dressed in shorts, sandals, a big wide-brimmed hat and fringed scarf- still walks free. He apparently runs a village stall in Schull these days selling pizzas, if I’m not mistaken, and, erm, his poems, and Jules Thomas has finally ditched him…

The French held their own trial, urged on by Sophie’s now grown-up son and her friends and relatives. They found Ian Bailey guilty of murder in absentia and sentenced him to twenty-five years in prison.

The Irish courts apparently are not going to boot him across the Channel to face the music, so, to all intents and purposes, he’s a free man. Until the next development in this sensational case, and, trust me, it’s not the last we’ve heard either of Ian Bailey or Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the beautiful Frenchwoman who met a horrible death in a lonely field in the dead of night one fateful Christmas…

It was kind of chilling, yet strangely endearing, to see all the old television news reports and the coverage of the death by the Irish state broadcaster, RTE, and watch all the old familiar faces reading the News and commenting on the murder. Marian Finucane is dead now; Brian Dobson retired. Pascal Sheehy is still going strong. The scenery is stunning and as gothic as Sophie could ever have wished for; the haunting music ditto. A few local legends and rumours of hauntings are thrown in for good measure.

The film is crystal-clear about who is the villain. They might as well put horns and a tail on Ian Bailey. Is he just a bullying, controlling asshole who beats women and craves and cultivates constant attention, or is he something even worse?

Feel free to convict him yourself in your own mind, as the Irish courts seem oddly reluctant to do so, or you can of course plump for ‘innocent until proven guilty.’  Or does the latter go out the window when a man has already been convicted by the court of public opinion? If Ian Bailey isn’t actually guilty of Sophie’s murder, then he’s had a hell of a rough quarter of a century…

     AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

A IS FOR ACID and THE BRIDES IN THE BATH: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY TRUE-LIFE MURDER MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

acid

A IS FOR ACID (2002) and THE BRIDES IN THE BATH (2003): A DOUBLE BILL OF TRUE-LIFE MURDER MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I remembering watching both of these murder movies when they were first on television- ITV, I think- back in 2002 and 2003. I remember also being utterly fascinated by them both, voyeuristic little ghoul that I am.

In particular, I never forgot Martin Kemp in THE BRIDES IN THE BATH yelling the following at one of his many bigamous ‘wives’: ‘You’re my wife, and if I want you to take a hot bath, then you’ll damn well take a hot bath!’ Crikey, take it easy, Mister Hygiene Police. Mind you, his apparent fastidiousness arose, not out of an over-riding passion for cleanliness, but out of a passion for murder…

Let’s start with THE BRIDES IN THE BATH then, as it appears we already have. Martin Kemp, the heart-throb from ‘Eighties New Romantic band Spandau Ballet, plays George Joseph Smith (1872-1915), a man who used and abused women cruelly for personal profit.

With his piercing blue eyes, handsome face, chin dimple (this is Martin Kemp I’m describing now, not George Joseph Smith!) and decent physique, he approached lonely single women in just-post-Victorian England and made them fall in love with him. He had all the charm and all the chat, so that bit was ridiculously easy for him.

It was easy too for him to bigamously marry these women, despite the fact that he had a wife sitting at home waiting for him in his unsuccessful antiques shop. He simply used aliases.

Once he’d married the women, he became the rightful owner of any money or property they had, or he’d take out life insurance policies on them, payable to him in the tragic event of the wife’s death. Then he’d make his wives take a bath with the door unlocked…

How he got away with it so often is staggering. Why were there no marks of violence on any of the bodies, when surely there must at least have been bruising round their ankles where he held them so tightly until they drowned? But no, he did this and got away with it three times before anyone thought to put two and two together.

He used the same modus operandi with each of the murdered wives. He’d marry ’em, move to a new area with them and then bring in the local doctor and tell him he was ‘worried’ about his wife, in an attempt to have a diagnosis of epilepsy or nervous hysteria or something brought in. This was so that then, when he went on to murder this wife for financial gain, he could call in the doctor and say things like, Oh my God Doctor, I was afraid of something like this! What a creep.

Martin Kemp is terrific as the cold, heartless George Joseph Smith. Mind you, he’s a great actor anyway. He was in EastEnders for several years and he also played one of the Kray twins with his real-life twin brother Gary in the superb film THE KRAYS, co-starring the magnificent Billie Whitelaw as their adoring mother.

I didn’t care much for the giant moustache he sports in THE BRIDES IN THE BATH but it was the style of the time, like wearing one of those long-legged stripy bathing costumes when you went to the seaside.

Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter’s Uncle Dursley) plays Smith’s barrister, Sir Edward Marshall-Hall, a man who seems to dislike his client and who almost certainly thinks Smith is guilty as hell of the heinous crimes of which he’s been accused. I wouldn’t say he was all that sorry to see Smith hang for his sins.

Tracey Wilkinson (yes, you DO recognise her; she was prison officer Di Barker in smashing prison drama BAD GIRLS) does a great job as Smith’s long-suffering ‘real’ wife Edith, and even then she finds out at the end that she too was married bigamously to Smith, as he’d wedded someone else before her in 1898. What a bastard!

‘Oh, but he keeps coming back to me,’ she bleats rather pitifully in the face of all the evidence of Smith’s bigamy. ‘Surely that means he loves me?’ Not necessarily, love. He needs a base, that’s all, somewhere to return to when the heat’s on or he needs to lie low or regroup his resources.

It’s a bit like running back to your Mammy when you’re tired and sick or you need to retreat from the world for a bit and you know she’ll look after you. It’s not the same as loving someone properly, not at all.

Smith, in a way, treated Edith worst of all, although he didn’t kill her. Instead, hers was the Death Of A Thousand Cuts, as she sat at home waiting for him for weeks, even months, on end while he was off marrying other women and killing them for their money and calling it his ‘work.’ This was the highly dubious ‘business’ of which she knew nothing. Was she better off not knowing? It’s hard to say.

There’s a funny bit- well, it’s funny in a gruesome way- when Smith’s boarding-house landlady is reading in her newspaper about the execution of infamous wife-murderer Doctor Crippen. At that exact moment she’s reading the news article, water from the on-going murder of Smith’s then-wife is actually dripping down onto the newspaper from the bathroom above. The irony is rather delicious.

Another Martin takes centre-stage now, Martin Clunes, as we take a look at A IS FOR ACID. Clunes plays John George Haigh (1909-1949), the ‘Acid Bath Murderer’ who killed people by dissolving them in a bath of acid because he’d heard that acid removed all traces that there’d even been a person there in the first place.

Without a body, he’d heard, there could be no conviction for murder. Corpus delicti, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, it was the remains of the people he killed that convicted him, the remains that the acid didn’t dissolve: the body fat, the gallstones (eeuw!), the dentures, the bit of a foot. So much for acid, anyway.

Just like our old friend George Joseph Smith’s case was trail-blazing in that it allowed evidence from other similar deaths to be heard during the prosecution of one particular murder, so was Haigh’s case ground-breaking.

It was one of the first in which forensics played a huge part. Forensics was all the police had to go on, pretty much, so Haigh might even have been the first murderer to have been convicted on the basis of forensic evidence alone.

Smith and Haigh were similar in other ways too. Smith quoted poetry at his women and he had a fondness for Tennyson. Haigh was very cultured also. He played classical piano well and performed pieces by such musical luminaries as Bach when he was asked for his party piece.

Haigh killed for love. Love of money and love of self, that is. In the film A IS FOR ACID, he kills six people for his own financial advancement. He was a born conman with several convictions for petty fraud.

He murdered his old chum Donald McSwann to gain control of McSwann’s properties and lucrative business, and then he killed Donald’s gentle elderly parents to avoid detection. What a cowardly weasel.

His modus operandi was probably a little less finessed than Smith’s. He claimed to be an inventor and an engineer and, in fact, he did tinker about with a few ideas. He’d invite the person he wanted to kill round to his workshop, then he’d either shoot them or bash them over the crown with a crowbar. Then into the vat of acid they’d go, maybe still alive for all we know. What a grisly, miserable end to meet.

After the McSwann family massacre, he murdered Archie and Rose Henderson (The awful Rose is played by Celia Imrie), a doctor and his wife, so that he could take charge of their financial affairs.

But Rose’s brother is deeply suspicious of Haigh. When he is able to connect Haigh to the disappearance and possible murder of an elderly rich woman living where Haigh does, at the Onslow Hotel, he contacts the police. They pay a long-overdue visit to Haigh’s workshop…

Haigh is quiet, polite and charming. But his mind has been somewhat of a gory bent since childhood, and he tells the cops that he thinks he’s a vampire. His wacko parents, members of a religious sect known as ‘the Plymouth Brethren,’ have been telling him since he was born that the three of them are part of something called ‘God’s Elect.’ No wonder Haigh feels like he has the power of life and death over the people he meets.

His devoted girlfriend Gillian (Keeley Hawes) is so smitten with the tall, amiable Haigh that she goes round to Haigh’s parents’ house after Haigh has been hanged and spouts mealy-mouthed platitudes like: ‘Oh no, he didn’t suffer at all at the end!’ Well, that’s a blessing, at any rate. We’d sure hate for the man they called the Acid Bath Murderer to suffer when he was facing Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman…!

Anyway, these are two top-notch British crime dramas that you’d hugely enjoy if you’re into serial killers, which most of us horror movie fans probably are. There’s a glamour and excitement about serial killers that draws us to them but, when you watch films like this, you do get to see the killers as they really were.

And what were they really? Just small-minded, petty little men who killed defenceless women and pensioners for a few measly quid and thought they were great big men for so doing. Anyway, kudos to The Two Martins. A job well done there, lads. A job well done.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor